Why your mind is your greatest writing asset

Do you want to stand out from other writers?  Do you want to write original stories or scripts? Do you want to engage your audience? To entertain them? To have fans?

Well, you can achieve all of this, if you appreciate and develop your greatest asset as a writer – that of your mind.

It’s easy to find information on how to structure a story, on how to develop characters, on how to apply different genres and story angles, on how to use the right words.  In fact, almost everything related tho the technical side of a writer’s craft can be found quite readily these days.

However, the quality that makes all successful writers stand out, is something that you can’t buy or be taught by anyone else.  It’s your internal state – your state of mind. Some call it your mindset.  And closely linked to your mindset, is your creativity and imagination. Your mindset sets the groundwork for the latter.

Your mindset also refers to your attitude. This includes your attitude towards yourself and your attitude towards your writing.  Attitude can as be as simple as whether you are basically optimistic or whether you tend to be more pessimistic (“realistic” as a pessimist might say).

As a writer your most valuable tool is your mind. And you have complete control over your own mind.  You have complete control over what you choose to think, believe and imagine. You can think in possibilities or you can limit yourself to what others tell you is possible either for yourself or what will work within the realms of story-telling or for your audience.  You can be true to yourself or you can listen to external voices and influencers of opinion.

In the environment of an optimistic mind the imagination is free to roam and explore possibilities. It grows quickly – nurtured by wonder, awe and delight.

In contrast, in the environment of a pessimistic mind the imagination soon shrivels and withdraws – unable to get a firm footing in any fertile soil. Strangled at its first appearance – if it does not adhere to some arbitrary criteria of excellence or productivity (output).

To develop your imagination you must playfully engage it on a regular basis – just as children readily do in their early years. As you befriend your mind and your imagination you will find yourself embarking on some amazing journeys into new lands and worlds. You then can bring back some of these tales and watch – as they engage, entertain and delight your readers and fans.

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How to guarantee your story will be a winner

Every writer wants to write a great story.  They want to write a winner – maybe a story that launches a blockbuster movie.

Well, here is a fun take on how to do just that – from Kurt Vonnegut – where he graphs the plot of every popular story.

Kurt Vonnegut graphs the plot of every story

 

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What every writer can learn from this famous author (hint: she wrote children’s books)

In general I don’t read biographies.  However I recently saw, for the second time, the delightful movie based on the life of children’s author Beatrix Potter. Miss Potter (2006).  Stars include the brilliant Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson.

Last week when I was visiting my local library my eye caught a biography about her (Beatrix Potter – A Life in Nature by Linda Lear).  I borrowed the book more out of curiosity than real interest in reading a biography.

What struck me was how Miss Potter who lived 1866 – 1943 in a very socially conservative  England – managed to nurture her immense creative abilities both as a writer of children’s stories and even more remarkably as a very gifted illustrator.  She illustrated all of her own books.  And even when the stories were a little “thin” – the brilliance of her illustrations more than compensated for any deficiencies in the story line.

Biographer Linda Lear lays out an extremely detailed and chronological account of Beatrix Potter’s life. In it are many clues to Miss Potter’s success that apply to all authors or artists in any field.

Miss Potter had natural talent and a vivid imagination which she developed easily because of her various passions. For example, she had a passion for observing animals in their natural state and ordinary people in ordinary settings. She loved telling stories to young children. She loved to draw and to paint in water colors.  She had an immense appetite for studying many different subjects ranging from animals (rabbits, mice, hedge-hogs, frogs, insects), natural history, gardens and scientific subjects.

From an early age, she understood that she was a unique creative being and she resisted attempts by various adults to shape her personality, her writing style and her illustrating style.  She followed her own instincts and ignored, in the main, negative commentary from others.

However, it is the following excerpt from the book that particularly struck a chord for me and was the secret to Potter’s success (in my view).

At one time Beatrix credited Peter Rabbit’s success to the fact that it was a story initially written for a real little boy.  But she was also quick to acknowledge that she wrote chiefly to please herself. “I think I write carefully because I enjoy my writing, and enjoy taking pains over it. I have always disliked writing to order; I write to please myself.”

Beatrix Potter had in fact created a new form of animal fable: one in which anthropomorphized animals behave always as real animals with true animal instincts and are accurately drawn by a scientific illustrator. The gap between animals and humans in Potter’s work is so narrow that we scarcely notice the transition between the two.’ (Beatrix Potter, Penguin Books, 2007:153)

Beatrix Potter wrote to please herself.  She loved what she did.  She expressed her natural creativity by developing a new form of children’s books.  It was not her intention to do the latter – rather it came as a result of her following her own creative interests and instincts.

Every writer that achieves success does the same.  Ultimately they are expressing their unique perspective in some way.

I reached page 175 of the biography (446 pages) – and that will be “enough” for me.  I now understand why she was such a success in her day. Most interesting.

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Does Your Story Have an Emotional Impact on Your Reader?

One of the discussion threads in the writer’s group I’m in – is the importance of “emotion” in story writing.

I am currently reading The Writer’s Journey (3rd ed) 2007 – by Christopher Vogler and it’s interesting that he raises the same issue. He’s got a chapter at the end of the book called “The Wisdom of the Body”. Here’s a quote,

“Although we use our minds to process and interpret stories, much is going on throughout the rest of the body as we interact with a narrative. We react to art and to stories about our fellow creatures with the organs of our body. In fact,the whole body is involved, skin, nerves, blood, bones, and organs.

Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces) pointed out that the archetypes speak to us directly through the organs, as if we were programmed to respond chemically to certain symbolic stimuli.”

And later

“It’s not easy to critique your own writing or the writing of others. ….
Sometimes the best way to measure a story’s effect and diagnose its problems is to ask, “How did it make me feel – in the organs of my body?”

In other words, do you draw your reader into your story – emotionally? For example, scenes where you feel a shiver down your spine, hold your breath, feel suspense, laugh, feel anger, surprise, delight, shock, etc).

Does your story explore the emotional possibilities of a situation?

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Survivors in a Captive World

All of the ingredients of a great story. Two elephants reunited after more than 20 years.

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‪Reel Wisdom – Lessons from 40 Films in 7 Minutes‬

The power of a great movie!

Reel Wisdom features a broad array of films, from action/adventure and sci-fi films, to dramas and traditional/CG animated films in order to show how all genres of film have something important to say.  Quite a lot of the Star Wars series.

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The Writer’s Journey

Everyone loves a good story.  Great stories inspire and uplift as well as entertain the reader.

However, what constitutes a “good” story is entirely subjective. There are of course, basic guidelines to follow.  After that it really is in the mind and imagination of the author and their ability to make an emotional connection with their readers through the characters and events they create or narrate.

Every writer sets out on a journey – the writer’s journey.  Where it will go, you do not know. How it will flow, remains to be seen. It’s a journey unknown.  An adventure for sure.

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